I am Not as Much of a Nationalist as Gilles Duceppe (or Stéphane Dion)
There is a federalist credo in Québec which all but the most intransigent centralists repeat like a mantra, it goes:
“I am a nationalist, not a sovereigntist.”
That’s Stéphane Dion meant the other day when he said he was “as much of a nationalist as Gilles Duceppe”. It’s only because Dion’s used to be the Liberal’s point man in the war against the ‘separatists’ that the statement got anybody’s attention. If any other candidate of any other federalist party had said the same thing, no one would have spilled their Starbuck’s over it.
There is a long tradition of nationalist-federalists in Québec. Prime Minister Jean Lesage used to say “Le Canada c’est mon pays, le Québec c’est ma patrie” (Canada is my country, Québec is my homeland) and Daniel Johnson, the official leader of the No camp used those exact same words as a slogan in the 1995 referendum campaign.
Then there are the Canadian nationalists. The Holy Trinity of Pierre and Justin Trudeau and Jean Chrétien – the Father, Son and Sketchy Uncle of Canada – who managed to export a peculiar kind French-Canadian ‘Chosen People on a Divine Mission’ nationalism – a nationalism that has it’s roots in the missionary fervor of the first Catholic settlers of New France – right across the federation.
Yet even them, the most centralists of federalists who truly, sincerely believe that Canada is the ‘bestest’ country in the world, never miss a chance to remind us that they are proud to be Québécois.
I am not proud to be Québécois. I am not a nationalist. I am an indépendantiste.
Saying you’re proud to be Québécois or Canadian is the exact same thing as saying your proud to be white or right handed. How can you be proud of an absolutely random twist of genetics and fate?
I am Québécois. I’m not proud of it. I’m proud of things I do. I didn’t make Québec. It was here before I got here and it’ll go on without me. I have, as of yet, not contributed anything of particular importance to it’s economy, culture or history. I admire what Serge Fiori, Leonard Cohen, Efrim Menuk, Bruny Surin and Pierre Péladeau have acheived. Can’t say I had anything to do with it.
I also admire Bob Marley. I feel touched by his music and recognize a little bit of myself in his art. Does that make me proud to be Jamaican?
I feel privileged to live in a pretty cool place. Not proud. Privileged.
I have gratitude – not pride – gratitude for the hard fought battles of Louis-Joseph Papineau, René Lévesque and Pierre Bougault to right some wrongs and to empower the powerless. I also feel a sense of duty to protect and expand those powers.
That’s why I am indépendantiste. It’s not about being something, it’s about doing something. It’s a plan. It’s a project. It’s an administrative reorganization of a political structure that could truly empower people.
I became a sovereigntist myself because of Québec’s language legislation. I understood it but I didn’t like it. I struggled to find a way to protect and empower French in North America without a Sign Law. I think an independent Québec is the best idea anybody’s had so far.
There are other good ideas. Federations are great political structures, allowing to balance local and central power. But they need to be flexible and able to adapt to changing realities. We tried that a few times in Canada, from the radical decentralization of the PQ’s Souveraineté-Association project to the timid Lake Meech accord.
Every time the nationalists – canadian nationalists, that is – stood in the way with flags and fear.
That’s why I want an independent Québec. Because we need to get rid of the nationalists. All kinds. Blue and Red.